• on Dec 14th, 2009 in Delivery & Collection | 31 comments
    Did you know that one in seven people in the United States change their address each year? Naturally, this creates a tremendous challenge for the Postal Service, which strives to maintain a high-quality repository of current addresses.

    Change-of-address requests can be made in person at local Post Offices using a hardcopy form (PS 3575), or electronically using the Internet. They can even be made over the telephone. By far, the most popular way to change one’s official address is still using the hardcopy form, but those contemplating a move should consider their options carefully.

    While the Postal Service’s change-of-address process generally works properly, our audit found that improvements are needed in the way hard copy requests are processed, authorized, and validated. Although Postal Service employees should reject and return orders with no signature, in some cases change-of-address orders without a proper signature slipped through. We also saw signature mismatches and occasions when Postal Service employees rather than customers signed or initialed the forms.

    Is there a better way? We think there is. Our audit also examined the Internet and telephone change request systems. We found that these electronic alternatives are not only much more convenient for the customer, they are also far more effective in ensuring that only authorized and validated change-of-address requests are processed. Digital requests can be electronically matched against customers’ credentials quickly and efficiently. This results in a more secure environment, which is important because mail diverted to another location based upon unauthorized change-of-address orders is a major contributor to identity theft — America’s fastest growing crime.

    There has to be a catch, you say. Well, there is. This service costs $1. We think it’s a bargain! To change your address online, go to moversguide.usps.com. To change your address by telephone, call 1-800-275-8777.

    You should know the Postal Service does have systems in place to protect customers against unauthorized address changes. If a change of address has been submitted for you, the Postal Service will follow up with a Move Validation Letter. This letter is sent to your current address and notifies you that a request has been made to forward your mail to a new address. If you did not request to change your address, you should inform your local Post Office immediately as a potentially fraudulent situation may exist. In our audit, we found that the Postal Service generally sends these letters in a timely manner. Recently, the Postal Service has taken steps to further improve the timeliness of these letters, ensuring that they are processed within 3 to 10 days.

    What do you think about the Postal Service’s change-of-address process? How can it be improved?

    This topic is hosted by the OIG's Information Technology audit directorate.

  • on Dec 7th, 2009 in Finances: Cost & Revenue | 19 comments
    If the Postal Service is to recover from its current financial problems, it needs revenue. In addition to identifying additional sources of revenue, it must protect the revenue it is already due whether it comes in from the post office window, meters, online postage accounts, or from Permit accounts for business mailers. Ensuring that the Postal Service collects all of its revenue will help secure the agency’s position as a trusted service provider for years to come.

    That’s where you come in. What do you think are the greatest revenue leakage risks the Postal Service faces, and what are the best ways to protect that revenue? Now is the time to share your thoughts and help the agency.

    This topic is hosted by the OIG's Sales & Service directorate.

  • on Nov 30th, 2009 in Ideas Worth Exploring | 32 comments

    From public transportation to sports stadiums, venues use their prime real estate to sell space to advertisers and generate extra revenue. Take for example the Washington Metro transit system. Ad space is for sale everywhere — on buses and trains (inside and out) and even on train tunnel walls and floors.

    In these times of doing what it takes to maintain fiscal solvency, what if the Postal Service started selling its prime advertising real estate to generate revenue? Major advertisers might welcome the opportunity to place their ad on hundreds of thousand Postal Service trucks all over the country. Or smaller advertisers could take advantage of purchasing wall-space in a post office. The Postal Service actually explored selling advertising space around 2001 in a program called the Postal Ad Network, but it was discontinued after it raised much less money than initially expected. However, a major advertising slump hit right at the time the Postal Ad Network was rolling out.

    There are some major ‘what ifs.’ Who would manage the program and what would be charged for advertising? More importantly, what would the limitations be? When Major League Baseball proposed placing ads on bases, there was a major league backlash. How would the public react to advertising on Postal Service property? Would certain types of advertising be out of bounds? The Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act does not permit the Postal Service to undertake new nonpostal products. Would selling advertising on Postal Service property violate the law? And how would selling advertising space affect the Postal Service’s brand?

    Putting aside those issues, would it be worth it? And what kind of increased revenue would an advertising program like this bring?

    This topic is hosted by the OIG's Risk Analysis Research Center (RARC).

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